Three Fresno State students are facing misdemeanor charges for the death of 18-year-old Philip Dhanens. The suspects are Leonard Serrato, 28, Aaron Raymo, 24, and Daniel Baker, 22. They were all members of the Theta Chi Fraternity. Dhanens died from acute alcohol poisoning after a party on August 31, 2012.
Dhanens' parents made the trip from Bakersfield to Fresno to address the media. They hope the fraternity brothers take responsibility for their actions and that the entire community learns from this tragedy.
Paul and Diane Dhanens stand next to the District Attorney and Police Chief on Tuesday, listening to the harsh details of their son's final night. A strong, healthy 18-year-old was pledging the Theta Chi Fraternity and drinking heavily at a party. He was found early the next morning, unresponsive.
"Based on the blood alcohol level and Philip Dhanens' size, as well as other factors taken into consideration, that he had injested 37 one ounce shots of alcohol during the course of the evening," said Chief Jerry Dyer of the Fresno Police Department.
Dyer says Dhanens' blood alcohol level was .40 when it was first measured at the hospital. Now, the three Fresno State students who bought the alcohol and planned the party are facing misdemeanor charges: hazing and providing alcohol to a minor, resulting in death.
"Our message is clearly, you held yourselves out as responsible, you provided this enviornment and the alcohol, and you will be held accountable," said Elizabeth Egan, Fresno County District Attorney.
Egan says the suspects could face six months to a year in jail and pay a $5,000 fine. The night of the party, 12 underage pledges were given alcohol. One was only 17-years-old. Dhanens' mom hopes her son's death is never forgotten.
"All of us as a community can continue to effect change regarding the widespread problem of alcohol poisoning and hazing," said Diane.
Investigators spent over 700 hours working the case, interviewing more than 60 witnesses. Jeff Hammerschmidt is the defense attorney representing Serrato. He says the entire incident is painfully unfortunate.
"People in the fraternity become lifelong friends, that was the goal, and it turned into, unfortunately, a young man dying much too soon," said Hammerschmidt.
A warrant is out for the three suspects' arrests. They'll likely be booked into the jail and their bail will be $2,000.